rPET ( PIR / PCR )
The use of recycled materials is only possible, if we enable recycling through designing our packaging fit for recycling. This is currently not always possible, but we are looking for solutions to reach it.
Recycled plastics can be made out of two sources:
- post-industrial / pre-consumer material from productional/ industrial waste (PIR), which is mostly not contaminated,
- post-consumer waste (PCR), which is the waste from our households, and is contaminated with food residues and other materials. But it can also come from deposit systems, which are not contaminated by other materials and the food residues can be cleaned easily.
rPET, rHDPE and rPP are available from these sources.
PIR is a high-qualitiy material and is often reused in related processes of the industry which produce it. This material is not ending up in the recycling system of the household waste. Some governments accept these PIR as recycled plastics for packaging (UK), some do not (DE). Depending on the source, the plastics can be certified for food contact or not.
Recycled PET - rPET
Currently, the only food-grade material approved by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) from PCR is from PET bottle deposit systems e.g. in the Netherlands, Germany. The reason, why EFSA is certifying this PET as food-grade is, because the deposit systems don’t have a lot of contaminations by residues and are only contain food packaging. Because of this “closed” loop of PET food-grade material, the EFSA approved several recycling processes of this material to produce food-grade recycled PET.
Excursion: Petpackers out of rPET
The certified food-grade rPET is used to produce food packaging like Petpackers, which are not part of the deposit system anymore. The closed deposit-loop usually produces PET bottles over and over again from circulating PET material. This is a very efficient system with minimal material loss, and every material which will be taken out, needs to be replaced by virgin PET.
That means to produce food packaging from this rPET e.g. Petpackers, which will end up in the household waste, reduces the amount of bottle-to-bottle PET and the efficiency of the deposit system.
That’s why we agree in the fact that taking rPET out of this loop to use it in products and finally lose the material in the household waste, is not sustainable. To think about how to use the recycled rPET from this source is therefore necessary. A possibiliy is to use it only in clear Petpackers with PP or PE closure and a fitting label, to enable the recyclability. Even if the material won’t come back to a food packaging, it can be reused for non-food applications.
Recycled HDPE - rHDPE & rPP
The EFSA didn’t approve rHDPE or rPP materials as food-grade, because they usually end up in our household waste and are contaminated. To change this, there are some innovations developed, but not yet implemented: The aim is to improve the sorting during the recycling process to be able to separate food from non-food packaging. This would enable producing more recycled PCR-plastics with food-grade.
One example are digital watermarks, which are invisible for the human eye, but detectable by cameras. These digital marks could be detected during the recycling process and the seperation would follow.
But these developments still need time to be realised. As soon as this will happen, we will include them to our portfolio of sustainable materials.
The quality and properties of recycled materials are similar to virgin material. But because it’s a mix of different qualities and already treated mechanically, it might be less flexible, darker and some other properties can be slightly different. But before it is used for our packaging, the suppliers and we make tests to approve the material and occurred product for its use. These tests cover physiochemical behaviour like migration tests. But also product properties like colour & shape accuracy, load, filling, labelling, sealing, capping, sleeving, packing, shipping.
In the following table, you can see the differences between recycled and virgin PET/ HDPE. The virgin versions meet all of the criteria.
made from renewable ressoruces
Renewable sources are usually plants, but can also be bacteria or algae. For sugar crane, which is the source of the bio based HD/LDPE we are using a producer of Ethanol. Out of this Ethanol, which is gained from the renewable sugar crane, they make different chemical and physical steps to produce HD/LDPE out of it.
One of the advantages of this material is of course the renewable source. To cultivate the plants have as well a positive CO2-footprint, because plants take CO2 from the air and convert it to oxygen. The other advantage is, that although the source is different than fossil oil, the whole structure of the HD/LDPE is the same as the common virgin PE. That means it can be produced, used and disposed and recycled as usual HD/LDPE. That’s why it has food-grade and the same look as the material from fossil sources.
Bio based PP is currently available and we currently investigate, if it meets the requirements to be able to use it for our products. The process uses wood oil, which is converted into bio based PP through chemical and physical treatment.
Bio based PET is currently not possible to produce by more than 30%, because not all parts of the molecular structure can be gained by renewable resources in an industrial scale. Of course some researches are going on to find a way to produce bio based PET, and as soon as it is available, we will take it into our portfolio.
For the described plastics, bio based is only related to the source and not to the end-of-life. That means our raw materials and products are not biodegradable or compostable. These are totally different approaches, which will be covered by one of the next Grip on Green parts.
In the following table, you can see that bio based and virgin HDPE don’t have any differences. The virgin as well as the bio based versions meet all of the criteria.